Jul 25, 2014

Donald William McTAVISH 1888 - 1916

Donald William McTAVISH  was born in 1888 in Horsham, Victoria, Australia, the third child for Donald McTAVISH and Anne CHANDLER.

At the age of 27 years, Donald - a farmer - enlisted in the AIF on 24th July 1915 to the 22nd Battalion 4th Reinforcement with service number 2296. He enlisted the same time as his cousin - Harold McTAVISH who was given the service number 2295.

The following is a group image of the 22nd Battalion prior to departure for overseas, date and place taken is unknown.

After their training, both Donald McTavish and his cousin Harold embarked at Melbourne on 27th September 1915 on board the HMAT HORORATO. Bound for the Middle East via Fremantle.
Unfortunately, Donald failed to re embark the Hororato in Fremantle and had to wait for the HMAT Osterley departing on 5th October.

HMAT Hororato

HMAT Osterley

The 22nd Battalion spent some time in Moascar in Egypt with field training.

In March 1919, George Lambert described the Moascar camp as: "Miles and miles of tents and desert, thousands of sweating, sun-bronzed men and beautiful horses"(Lambert 1938, p. 79).

On 20 July 1919 he wrote to his wife: "... the well-appointed camp that two years ago spread out from here to the Desert for miles and umpteen miles, a white city of tents. There are still tents, a mile or so ... but the tents are slowly coming down, the incinerators are throwing off long, low lines of blue smoke ... Outside this bit of shade, 111 Fahrenheit, there is a blaze of almost colourless light, and it takes even for an experienced savage like myself, a few seconds to locate the difference between sand, tents and sky. In this blaze work still goes on - army work ...".

On the 19th March 1916 they departed Alexandria on board the LLANDOVERY CASTLE bound for Marseille, in France.

In March 1916, the 22nd Battalion embarked for France and experienced their first service on the Western Front in reserve breastwork trenches near Fleurbaix at the end of the first week of April 1916. The battalion’s first major action was at Pozières, part of the massive British offensive on the Somme.

By the first week of July in 1916 they were in the Bois Grenier Line, near Steenwerck in France.  From there they were entrained towards Lealvillers and by the third week of July marching towards Albert.

The Bois Grenier Line - a support trench - was about 70 yards to the rear of the front line and then a further 1000 yards back was the reserve line.

Australian soldiers on their way to the front-line trenches at Bois Grenier, 5 June 1916

An Australian soldier in the trenches near Bois Grenier, 5 June 1916

Australians in the trenches near Bois Grenier, 3 June 1916

22nd Battalion in France

By the 26th July 1916 they were on march from  Lealvillers to Albert.... at 5.30pm the Battalion moved off passing thru Albert to Sausage Valley where the Battalion was issued with picks, shovels, two mills bombs each and two sandbags. At 11pm Battalion moved off to relieve 6th Battalion AIF in POZIERES.

at 4.30am on 27th July 1916 they were occupying trenches in Pozieres. Enemy shelling commenced at 6.30am in response to the Battalion artillery fire. Shelling was intense. On this day, in the 22nd Battalion, 21 KIA, 19 MIA, 129 wounded.

Battle of Pozieres ~ one year and three days from time of enlistment. Army records state that Donald William McTAVISH died between 27th July and 4th August. (4th Aug was when his cousin was severely injured) But his death was always remembered as being on 27th July each year.

View across the Pozières plateau in August 1916

22nd Battalion Cross Erected at Pozieres

Donald William McTavish is remembered with honour at
Villers-Bretonneux Memorial

No known grave

Donald William McTavish is remembered at the 
Australian War Memorial.

Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Donald William McTavish's name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the AWM in Canberra on:
  • Tue 19 August, 2014 at 5:17 am
  • Thu 2 October, 2014 at 11:15 pm
  • Tue 25 November, 2014 at 4:30 am
  • Mon 19 January, 2015 at 8:38 pm
  • Thu 12 March, 2015 at 6:03 am
  • Sun 26 April, 2015 at 10:01 pm
  • Sun 7 June, 2015 at 12:17 am
  • Tue 14 July, 2015 at 6:54 am
These dates and times are estimates. The actual time of projection could change as a result of weather and other factors, so it is advisable to check closer to the date. In the rare event of a temporary loss of electrical power, the names scheduled for display in that period will not appear until the next time listed.

With grateful thanks to:

The Australian War Memorial
The Australian National Archives
Australians on the Western Front


for further information and the use of their images off their sites.



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